Photo credits to Marcus Blunt
On Saturday, the girl’s volleyball team lost to the Branham Bruins in five sets, 25-20, 26-24, 20-25, 22-25, and 8-15, placing second in CCS Division 1 playoffs. The team qualifies for state playoffs with their second place finish despite the loss.
The energy was high from the start both on and off the court. Many students, dressed in M-A colors with yellow towels, filled the stands. Junior Avery Galles said, “It’s so fun to support your school and our volleyball team is so awesome and fun to watch.” Senior Alek Martin also stated, “I try to come to every game to come and support the team. It’s better with friends.” The game was filled with rallies that kept the spectators on their toes.
The first set was intense, as the two teams were neck and neck with M-A mostly leading by one or two points. The set started with powerful serves from senior Becca Schulman accompanied by kills from senior Anna Ryan, sophomore Daniela Eline, and junior Aria Sokol which led to loud cheers erupting from the stands. However, hitting and serving errors tied the score at 13-13. Eventually, M-A was able to gain a more substantial lead. An ace by Eline ended the set with M-A on top, 20-25.
In the second set, Schulman was once again the first server for the Bears. This time, she went on a nine point run, getting two aces. However, M-A did not maintain their big lead for long because of numerous violations and service errors. Ryan’s powerful kill extended M-A’s lead to 19-22 and the stands erupted with “she’s committed” chants. However, mistakes by the Bears tightened the score to 24-24. Fortunately, sophomore Sienna Morales’ kill concluded the second set with the Bears narrowly winning 24-26.
Unsurprisingly, in the third set, the Bears played spectacular defense led by senior libero Clara Cronin. At 12-9, Eline dove into the bench in an effort to save a ball, portraying the team’s determination to pursue the ball. This set was filled with intense rallying between the Bears and the Bruins. Blocks by Ryan and Morales increased M-A’s points. Senior outside hitter Nina Kerr had multiple kills. Junior Derick Kennedy remarked, “When I see Nina jump, I know that it’s about to be a smash.” Eline’s kill that caused a Bruin to run into the wall tied the score to 20-20. The Bruins gained momentum and began a five point run, ending the set 25-20.
In the fourth set, the Bruins were unprepared for Ryan’s strategic dumps. Students cheered “we love Aria!” immediately following her kills. This was a close set but M-A ultimately came up short in 25-22 due to a mix of serving errors and hitting errors.
The fifth set started on a sour note with the Bears losing two valuable points due to them being called out of rotation. These questionable calls by the refs led to outrage among the team and in the student section. The Bears were not able to make up the points that they had lost. Despite the impressive offense by Sokol, Ryan, and Eline, the Bears let multiple points slip due to them being unable to defend the Bruin’s powerful hits. The Bruins won the fifth set by a score of 15-8.
When asked what the team can improve on, Kerr said, “When we have confidence in ourselves and each other, we work together really well and have the ability to compete against any team. However when we face bigger teams like Branham and they start to gain momentum, we lose confidence and play safe, making easy mistakes and not playing at the level we should be at.”
Sokol said, “I am really proud of how far we fought against Branham but I am really disappointed that we let it go. We had the game in our hands and then let up a little and they undeservingly took it from us. The energy was pretty great though, despite the refs making some questionable calls.”
Although the evening ended with a tearful loss for the Bears, the volleyball team demonstrated their strong team chemistry and resilience against a fierce opponent.
According to Cronin, “the team never gives up on each game. Now we fight for every point, even when the odds are against us, and most of the time we surprise everyone.”
The team is looking forward to playing in state, Kerr stated, “We’re very excited to have the opportunity to play in state and prove ourselves as a team at a new level. It was a hard loss because the game was so close and competitive, but it really has just made us want to work harder in state and see how far we can go.”